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review 2017-05-31 09:59
Review: One of us is Lying
One of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus

I received a copy from Netgalley

 

This is a brilliant mystery that keeps the reader guessing right until the end. I had my suspects, and still turned out to be wrong. I watch a lot of crime drama so I’m usually quite good and guessing the killer, but I didn’t see the twist in this one coming at all. (Admittedly by the time I got to 80% and all my guesses were still wrong I did skim to the last few chapters to find out who it was, then went back and read it properly). Still managed to really surprise me.

 

It’s not the fluffy “Breakfast Club” retelling with a mystery aspect I was expecting. It’s a gritty novel full of secrets. While it’s filled with your typical mix of high school clichés – the jock, the brain, the dangerous but hot dude, the nerd, the princess – each character has their own secrets and well fleshed out personalities behind the cliché façade.

 

All of these characters, who don’t really know each other, they may have one or two classes together but have different friends, and they don’t hang out really. They wind up in detention because a teacher catches them with cell phones in a class where cell phones are not allowed. The phones are not theirs. Of course the teacher won’t listen. By the end of detention, the nerd, Simon, is dead.

 

Simon was notorious for running the school’s unofficial gossip app, posting students secrets. As the police investigation deepens, posts are revealed that contain damning secrets about each of the students that could ruin their reputations and possibly chances of their futures for certain characters.

 

Each one reacts differently. There’s a great sense of diversity among the characters, and I love how they all dealt with things and showed immense emotional growth over the course and came together to defend each other and solve the mystery. Nothing is as it initially seems and truths slowly start to come out creating big changes for different characters. No one is really who they are first seen to be.

 

The twists are really good.   I’m being vague, I know, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

It’s a really good read and I definitely look forward to more from this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-04-12 14:28
Review: The Edge of Everything
The Edge of Everything - Jeff Giles

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I think this was something I requested on a whim. It was quite some time ago, I remember only glancing at the synopsis on Netgalley. Admittedly I went into this one remembering nothing on what it was about. I had it in my mind for some reason it was a dystopian.

 

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Starts off with teen Zoe at home at the start of a snow storm looking for her younger brother who’s gone out to play with their two dogs. But he doesn’t appear to be answering her calls to come inside before the storm really gets going. The storm is getting worse by the minute so Zoe goes out looking for him. During her search Zoe stumbles into the path of nasty piece of work Stan who is robbing their neighbour’s house. The neighbours having died recently. The confrontation is bad. Warning – Stan really hurts the two dogs. It’s brutal and unpleasant.

 

Zoe and her brother are rescued by a mysterious figure who arrives and kicks the crap out of Stan. The mysterious benefactor is hell bent on destroying Stan for his evil deeds and seems to have some sort of superpowers. But of course nothing goes quite so smoothly. Not once he starts actually interacting with Zoe.

 

The figure, who later becomes known as X has come from a sort of hell dimension known as The Lowlands and is a bounty hunter sent to reap souls of evil doers. Stan is his target. Though Zoe’s interaction with him is brief, he learns something of mercy. Which sets in motion a big ass chain of events.

 

X has very little concept of how to interact with Zoe. Not completing his mission has left him in dire-straights and great pain until the job is done. He collapses in a nearby house –which just happens to be Zoe’s. With the help of Zoe, her mom and her younger brother they help X pull himself together.

X’s dialogue is quite stilted and almost boarding on cheesy, but there’s something quite fascinating about how he copes with Zoe. He’s grown up in this hell dimension with only other damaged souls to guide him, so has very little sense of morality or anything.

 

While Zoe is your average teenager – she lives with her mom and younger brother and is struggling to cope with the recent death of her father. Zoe’s mom is one of the more likeable, believable adults of YA fiction. She’s involved without being over the top involved, and seems to know when to back off. The mom has some secrets which come out later on in the novel, while it’s not of the pleasant nature, it’s doesn’t actually make her any less likeable as a character, I thought the twists added dimension and believability to the mom character.

 

Zoe herself is an immensely likeable character, there was something delightful about the way she was written that made me as a reader connect with her immediately. I liked her tone of voice and her dialogue.

 

She handled the increasingly weird situation very well. Her relationship with X grows, and as they became equality fascinated and enamoured with each other can be described as instalovey, although the novel is so well written and both characters are so interesting – it’s instalove but instalove that actually works.

 

And they’re both smart enough to know there will be consequences for their actions. X has to deal with the Lowlands and the consequences of revealing his secrets and not completing his mission. There appears to be a hierarchy of demons or “Lords” who are the rulers and X has royally pissed off one of the worst who is determined to make an example of him. This particular Lord is a real asshole and his actions and dialogue is so over the top in the vain of I’m so evil and you’re so crap and you must suffer because I say so. It’s almost like a cartoon villain and kind of ridiculous but at the same time kind of amusing in a weird way.

 

Zoe learns some uncomfortable truths about her father’s past and certain things she was never meant to know. It’s quite emotional. Her dad was a caver and taught her how, and there’s an incredibly moving scene where she goes caving with a friend as a result of some of the secrets she learns. Exceptinonally moving and very tense in parts.

 

A wonderful mix of action and romance, a very unique plot and not at all what I was expecting. I really loved this one.  I loved this one so much I bought a finished hardback.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ).

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review 2017-01-23 18:22
City of Saints and Thieves
City of Saints & Thieves - Natalie C. Anderson

I received a copy from Penguin's FirstoRead.com

 

The initial premise of this novel is nothing particularly original. Tina’s mother has been murdered, the police haven’t done anything and she’s hell bent on revenge. What gives this book an edge and makes it stand out in the YA mystery genre is its setting. The novel takes place in a city in Kenya and villages in the Congo. It’s raw, it’s violent and scary and incredibly well written.

 

Tina’s mother is a maid in the house of a very rich man who lives in Sangui City in Kenya. Tina lives there with her baby sister Kiki, and finds herself befriending the rich family’s son, Michael. When Tina’s mother is murdered, Tina runs away. Kiki is safe in a convent school, while Tina is on the streets and becomes part of the city’s most ruthless gang, the Goondas. Her quick thinking and small physique and some other talents make her a great thief and she toughens up, surviving in hard circumstances. The scary leader of the Goondas, a mysterious and very dangerous man, offers Tina the chance at revenge and blood against the man she believes murdered her mother.

 

As Tina puts her plan in motion, nothing is as it seems as she uncovers secrets and lies, and finds herself working with her old friend Michael – she believes it is his father who is responsible while Michael swears blind it’s not. Michael inserts himself into Tina’s investigation which yields more questions than answers, more danger and thing about Tina’s past and her mother come to light, things of course Tina never knew, which takes Tina, Michael and Tina’s technical whiz friend Boyboy who’s also helping out of Sangui City into the jungles of the unbelievably dangerous Congo.

 

It’s unflinching and brutal as Tina digs into her mother’s history. She’s smart, tough and wiry and never gives up no matter how hard or seemingly impossible everything looks. She’s just as brutal as the boys and men she has to work with, yet at the same time, she does have some softer moments. Just little things that make her human rather than just hell bent on revenge. Her resolve never really waivers until some really hard truths come to light about the truth of what happened to her mother in the villages in the Congo. There’s war and atrocities going on around them, and people who could be trusted may not be what they seem.

 

It’s very twisty turny, I never guessed who the killer was. I had several theories and all were wrong. Though in a way when the truth is revealed, you kind of find yourself thinking (or I certainly did) should have seen that one coming! but never did. It’s very harsh and not a comfortable mystery read at all.  But it’s so different in its setting and characters and it’s certainly a very compelling read. It did drag a bit in parts of the plot, and some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as Tina was, but the slowness of the plot does pick up.

 

Lots of dark secrets and lots of emotional impact.  Tough, but very good.

 

Definitely an author I would love to read more from.

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text 2016-12-16 15:44
One Was Lost
One Was Lost - Natalie D. Richards

I received a copy from Netgalley.

The premise of this one sounded interesting enough, a group of teens on a senior field trip wind up stranded in the woods, spooky things start happening, teachers go missing and they're being stalked by an unknown figure who writes strange things on the arms of four of the kids. Dangerous. Darling. Damaged. Deceptive. With no clue what's happening, stranded from their classmates by bad weather, and suspicions mounting, the kids must pull together and figure a way to get to help and safety.

Kind of reads like a cheesy teen survival movie. It's certainly got all the right elements, and the plot was fairly fast paced. Only once it got to the reveal it was more eye rolling than shocking, at least for me anyway. The other problem I had with it was there are no depth to any of the characters. The main character Sera is sensible enough with a snarky tone, and clearly has some sort of a past with one of the boys on the trip, Lucas. Rich boy Jude has a clear attitude problem, ditzy Melanie and Hayley seem to be into drama, and quiet Emily doesn't seem to say much at all.

But there's no real reasons explained for anyone's attitude. We get a little insight into Jude as the novel progresses and there are a few flashbacks as to what happened with Sera and Lucas, some sort of a potential romance that didn't go very far, and Sera backed off. All that's mentioned is something to do with her mother and not wanting to repeat her mistakes.

More questions than answers. Once the spooky things started happening, the suspicion and tension builds fairly quickly, though it seems everyone is quick to point figures without much evidence. And while they're trying to figure things out with scary shit going down Sera and Lucas seem to be inexplicably drawn to each other. Cue more eye rolling from the reader. The romance felt forced and unnecessary, though in a way I can understand wanting someone to cling to in an increasingly dangerous situation.

There is a fair bit of background on Lucas's character, but almost nothing on Sera herself. Though to be fair, stupid romance decisions that can be blamed on teen hormones aside, Sera is pretty logical and fairly sensible for the most part.

Spoilers, but these bits really irritated me

 

There was one stupid scene where she hears something at night whilst in the tent and thinks it might be bears in their camp. And she goes OUTSIDE in the pitch DARK to see what's going on. Leaving her tent-mate Emily asleep inside the tent. For fuck's sake.

 

One teacher is missing, presumed dead after an icky find and the other is alive but appears ill, and all they want is a grownup who can help get them sorted, so it becomes all about waking the teacher and getting him on his feet. Sensible, no? Though once the teacher is awake enough to get his bearings and not being sick, once he doesn't immediately believe every word they tell him they start thinking he's the one responsible.

(spoiler show)

 

There's also a story about a girl who died in the woods many years ago on a trip similar to theirs.  Deemed an accident when kids went partying in the woods, but there are hints there may be more to the story. Never really explored until the end.

Which in typical teen horror movie fashion, turned completely stupid. At least, it did for me.

Kind of a blah read for me in the end. Interesting premise, not so great execution. Would have liked some more character depth and background info filtered into the story.

Thank you Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-10-31 11:37
Review: 13 Minutes
13 Minutes - Sarah Pinborough

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This is a brilliant twisty turning mystery with a somewhat chilling feeling of just how nasty and manipulative teenage girls can be when they don’t get their own way. I didn’t find a single likeable or redeemable character in this novel, and usually when I can’t stand the characters I have no interest in the novel.

 

However, the novel was so exceptionally well written that the story itself was pretty unputdownable. I read the first 20% or so one afternoon, and then the next time I picked it up, I found myself reading the rest, I had to know what the hell was going on.

 

This is a UK based novel set at a sixth form college (17/18 year olds go just before going to college/university). The novel focuses on two main characters, Becca and Natasha who used to be best friends whilst growing up, with another girl Hayley in their little group. But as they grew up Becca didn’t fit the image that Tasha wanted so Becca was frozen out and another girl Jenny became best friends with Tasha and Hayley. Tasha is the queen bee of the group Becca has nicknamed the Barbies because they’re all blonde, perfect and popular (and bitchy).

 

Becca is a stoner with a musician boyfriend who has left school. She’s grumpy, moody and has one real friend Hannah who is the class loser. Becca’s only real friend yet she treats Hannah horribly. Worse when she learns Tasha has had a terrible accident but survives. Becca finds herself going to the hospital to see Tasha who has no memory of the terrible thing that happened or the events leading up to it.

 

So the mystery begins. It’s clear right off from chapters of texts between Hayley and Jenny they know something. The novel is told in alternating viewpoints Becca’s third person, Tasha’s first person from a diary the psychiatrist asked her to keep, police notes and psychiatrist reports. With Tasha’s memory loss she and Becca start reconnecting and putting the pieces together much to the dismay of Hayley, Jenny and Hannah who Becca has started blowing off and being meaner to.

 

While Becca is sullen and moody and quick to answer, Tasha is your typical queen bee bitch. She makes absolutely no apologies for her appalling personality. Hayley and Jenny are cardboard cut-out mean girls with very little personalities of their own – the exception being that Jenny is pegged as trashy and made fun of for being easy and sleeping around. This comes back to be a big plot point later on in the novel.

 

Despite the annoying characters, as the mystery builds and things get darker and twister it’s extremely compelling, it gives the idea that it’s very predictable and you think you know what’s going on, it’s fairly obvious. But then there are quite a few sudden unexpected shock twists. As the twists start happening and the police investigation continues it does take a darker tone. It’s not a comfy pleasant mystery at all. It’s certainly compelling and did leave me with a bit of a chill after the end.

 

Definitely an author I would read again.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Orion Publishing Group for approving my request to view the title.

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